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International Journal of Communication and

Media Studies (IJCMS)


ISSN(P): 2250-0014; ISSN(E): Applied
Vol. 6, Issue 1, Feb 2016, 1-12
TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.

ANALYSIS OF FOSSILIZED ERRORS IN SPEECH PRODUCTION


OF ADULT IGBO-ENGLISH BILINGUALS
CHIDI-ONWUTA, GIFT1 & OLUIKPE, BENSON2
Department of General and Communication Studies, Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria
Department of Linguistics, Communication Studies, Igbo Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria
ABSTRACT
The study analyzed a sample of the interlanguage (speech production) of Igbo English bilinguals to determine
manifestation of fossilized errors induced by the target sounds /, , and /. Data were generated from a passage and a
model containing the target sounds given to 10 randomly selected staff of the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia who had
their training in English language. Data were analyzed using spearmans correlation coefficient statistical method, and
mean value of the correct and fossilized errors. The findings revealed high mean value of fossilized errors for the target
sounds which are lacking in the participants native language (NL) phonemic inventory /, and / with a low mean
valueof fossilized errors for the target sound present in the participants NL phonemic inventory//. Spearmans

target language but absent in the learners native language are probable mistake causers which, if not got rid of, with
positive input, before the learners attain their plateaus in IL, would possibly become fossilized items.This study further
appear to establish a negative correlation between amount of fossilization and learners NLand recommended strategies
tobe adopted to facilitate learning before learners reach their plateau in IL because permanent defossilization may not be
possible after critical period.
KEYWORDS: Fossilization, Stabilization, Critical Period

Original Article

correlation coefficient adopted for analysis gave us a value of -1. The study concluded that linguistic items present in the

Received: Jan 07, 2016; Accepted: Jan 19, 2016; Published: Jan 27, 2016; Paper Id.: IJCMSFEB20161

INTRODUCTION
Second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and analysts have used error analysis (EA) and
interlanguage (IL) to investigate processes involved in second language learning.The most obvious approach to
analyzing interlanguage, according to Brown (2007) is to study the speech and writing of learners through which
errors can be observed and classified to reveal something of the system operating within the learner (Brown,
2000, p. 218). This implies that errors are a natural part of learning and should not be seen as misnomer. Errors are
red flags that provide evidence of the learners knowledge of the second language (Gass&Selinker,
1994).Proponents of Competition model (MacWhinney& Bates, 1989) observed that L2 learning begins with
massive transfer. Massive transfer of L1 features to the target language especially when there are established
structural differences between L1 and target language (TL) lead to errors in the target language while transfer when
there are similarities between them facilitate rapid and easy learning (Elis, 1985) The learner, after an initial
massive transfer, later discovers that his output does not match the target language. The learner will never detect a
mismatch between his own forms and the correct target forms if the target forms are passed through an L1 filter
(MacWhinney, 1978; MacWhinney& Bates, 1989). If the learner is unable to detect an error between his output and

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Chidi-Onwuta, Gift & Oluikpe, Benson

the correct target forms, what MacWhinney (1978) calls L2 auto-associative network will notbe developed. L2 learner
must be encouraged to detect the difference between his output and the correct target forms if he must develop autoassociative network. This can be achieved easily through computer enhanced speech processing (MacWhinney, 1990).
When a learner fails to develop auto-associative network, errors tend to insistently manifest in the interlanguage.
The developmental nature of interlanguage reveals that L2 learners go through a process of making and testing hypothesis
about the target language (Selinker, 1972), a process which according to Jalali&Shojaei (2012) leads to internalizing the L2
rules. Successful hypotheses become mental constructions that correspond to the rules of the target language while
unsuccessful hypotheses are revised or discarded (Wang, 2008). This implies that L2 learners at every moment are located
on aninterlanguage (IL) continuum between their L1 and the target language. The high level of competence in the target
language is attained by highly successful L2 learners while less successful L2 learners become fossilized somewhere along
the IL continuum (Brown, 1994).
The term fossilization, first introduced by Selinker (1972),refers to the long term persistence of non-target-like
structures in the interlanguage of the non-native speakers (Selinker&Lakshmanan, 1992, p.197).Han (2003) defined
fossilization from both cognitive and empirical perspectives. Fossilization, according to him involves those cognitive
processes, or underlying mechanisms that produce permanently stabilized interlanguage forms that remain in learner
speech or writing over time, no matter what the input or what the learner does(p.99)When errors are permanently found
in the IL of an L2 learner in a form that is deviant from the TL norms and that continues to appear in performance
regardless of further exposure to the TL, it is referred to as fossilized errors (Selinker&Lakshamanan, 1992). In addition to
the term fossilization, Selinker and Lakshamanan (1992) introduced the term stabilization. Stabilization, according to them
presumes fossilization. The difference between the two is defined in terms of permanence. Stabilized errors are not
permanent, rather they are, at a given level of IL development, maintained in L2 learners production. Teachers and L2
learners however, have roles to play at this stage of IL development to ensure stabilized errors disappear since stabilization
is a prelude to fossilization. Fossilized errors, on the other hand, are permanently established in the IL of an L2 learner
(Nozadze, 2012) in the form that is deviant from the TL norms and persists in his performance irrespective of TL exposure.
Fossilization is the result of acquisition while stabilization is the result of language learning (Cui-lian, 2003).Fossilization
manifests at all levels of language study but records proved evidence of incessant occurrences at the phonological level
(Selinker, 1972). Selinker asserts that once second language learners have passed the critical period, their pronunciation
becomes inevitably fossilized.
Second language teachers and researchers have enumerated various causal factors of fossilization ranging from
lack of corrective feedback, L1 interference, inadequate or impoverished quantity or quality of target language input,
method of instruction (too much based on the native language), L2 learners communicative competence such as avoidance
and simplification, inattention to improving L2 proficiency, lack of learner autonomy,etc (Richard, 1986;Wang,
2011;Nozadze, 2012).The review of the concept of fossilization above shows that it isa process of cessation of learning, a
point of no further growth of learningno matter what the age of the learner or the amount of explanation and instruction
s/he receives in the TL.
Ricard (1986) however, developed a course on phonology and pronunciation for Advanced Language Training
Programme of the Canadian government and demonstrated that steps can be taken to improve fossilized pronunciation in
adult students.
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Analysis of Fossilized Errors in Speech Production of Adult IGBO-English Bilinguals

Browns (1994) study, a follow up of Vigil and Ollers (1979) account of fossilization as a factor of positive and
negative affective and cognitive feedback claimed that fossilization is a reversible condition if the learner is given the
necessary positive feedback meant to encourage further attempts at communication(p. 218)
Demirezen (2005) alsodemonstrated through a study he conducted with Turkish English bilinguals, using
controlled guided pronunciation practice called the audio-articulation method, that it is possible to rehabilitate fossilized
pronunciation errors brought about by the contrast of /ow/ and /,:/ phoneme of the American English.
Dolezelova (2008) mapped fossilized pronunciation errors of Advanced Czech speakers of English to analyze and
uncover those fossilized errors that prevent Czech bilinguals from sounding native-like and found that although there are
still pronunciation errors in advanced Czech bilinguals, they are limited to small numbers of consonants, what proved to be
a significant error was the devoicing of final /z/ in plural and third person singular in present simple of verbs as well
reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables. Dolezelovas work supported the existence of fossilized pronunciation errors in
Czech bilinguals necessitated by contrast of /s/ and /z/ as well as the neutralization of lenis/fortis distinction in final lenis
consonant.
Jalali & Sojaei (2012) examined Persian EFL students developmental versus fossilized errors and recorded that
out of the fifteen prepositional error types identified in the subjects compositions, two were identified as developmental
and thirteen as fossilized errors, evidence that fossilization is at play in foreign language learning and demands serious
attention for learners to overcome.Fossilization, from the conceptual works reviewed above is a process, a cognitive
mechanism, or as a result of learning andit is marked as an obstacle in the process of second and foreign language teaching
and learning. The empirical studies reviewed aboveoffered steps necessary for rehabilitation of fossilized pronunciation
errors. If we believe the positive effect of models and plans (Audio Articulation Method, for example) on fossilized errors
of EFL and

ESL,

how

permanent can these

cured

pronunciation habits

remain in second

language

learners?.Kayaoglu&Caylak (2013) for instance, recorded a study where Turkish students pronunciation errors on interdental fricatives were cured but subsequently, classroom data reviewed that the students were not able to maintain their
newly acquired pronunciation habits.Following the argument above, it is established that in addition to the amount and type
of instruction L2 are exposed to, students age, attitude and concern for good pronunciation (Kenworthy, 1987) should be
taken into cognizance in any true account of pronunciation studies. Some scholars have proved that once language learners
have passed the critical period, a biologically determined period of life when language can be acquired more easily and
beyond which time language is increasingly difficult to acquire(Brown 2007, p.57), their pronunciation becomes
inevitably fossilized (Selinker, 1972). This assertion is supported by the extreme but widely accepted Kissenger effect (a
German-born American political scientist who had good and fluent command of English language but had a German accent
while speaking English). Following this argument, permanent defossilization is age dependent. Most of the studies on
fossilized pronunciation errors aimed at assessing the curability of such errors, few if any could empiricallypresent, with
corpus, the manifestation of the fossilized pronunciation errors relating them to either contrasts in the learners native and
the target language or other factors.The objective of this work therefore, is to investigate, identify and analyze the causes
and the extent of the manifestation of fossilized pronunciation errors in the speech production of Igbo English bilinguals
induced by the pronunciation of //, //and //. The study will ascertain, through the negative evidence, if there is a
correlation between the amount of fossilization and the degree of L1 influence through the production of the target sounds.
Among the levels of language study, pronunciation is considered as a highly and mostly neglected issue (Saran, Seferogu

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Chidi-Onwuta, Gift & Oluikpe, Benson

& Calgiltay, 2009, p. 97) but the most difficult area both for foreign language teachers and learners and become easily
fossilized in the IL (Demirezeen, 2005). Bearing this mind, a work of this nature is a welcome development.

METHODS
The population of this study is drawn from workers of Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia. A total of ten (10) Igbo
English bilinguals were randomly selected. These subjects fall within the age range of 25 to 48 years. They are holders of
at least, Ordinary National Diploma, with others as holders of first degree, and MastersDegree. They all had their training
in English where they had Use of English as a mandatory course of study. The choice of these subjects is informed by the
fact they have reached their IL plateau, which according to Gass&Selinker (2001), is far from the TL norms. What formed
data for analysis is the speech production of these ten (10) Igbo bilinguals.Igbo is a language that belongs to Benue Congo
family of the Niger Kordofanian of African languages. It is spoken by people who are located in the Southeast part of
Nigeria and some parts of Delta and Rivers States with a population of approximately 12 million people. The researchers
recorded their speech production in long and short discussions and developed passages containing the target sounds for
them to read. The subjects reading production was recorded to elicit the frequencies of occurrences of the fossilized and
correct sounds and their percentages.Spearmans correlation coefficient statistical method was adopted to analyze the data
to test relationship between fossilization and native language influence. The mean value of all fossilized sounds and their
correct forms was further established. In addition to the passage given to the subjects, the researcher produced a
modelbased on those target sounds for the subjects to read as follows:
Model 1
Come up
Come up mom
Come up mom, pick up the cup
Come up mom, pick up the cup and run after the bus

Crush the mudguard


Crush the muffled mudguard
Crush the dumped muffled mudguard

Huddle up
Huddle up humble hunters
Huddle up humble hungry hunters
Dump the rug
Dump the rug, I have had much of that stuff
Dump the rug, I have had much of that stuff in a hurry.
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Analysis of Fossilized Errors in Speech Production of Adult IGBO-English Bilinguals

Shun the shuttle


Shun the rubbish shuttle
Shun the uncles rubbish shuttle
Shun the uncles crushed rubbish shuttle.
Model 2
Three thieves
Three thieves threshed grains
Three thieves thoroughly threshed grains
Three thieves threaten to thoroughly thresh the grains.

Worthless throttle
Worthless throttle thrust their way through
Worthless throttle thrust their way through thin outlet

Faith relayed the truth


Faith relayed the truth through three different media
Faith relayed the truth through three different media on Thursday
Faith relayed the truth through three different media on first Thursday of the month.

Thick thin thigh


Thick thin thigh due for therapeutic treatment
Thick thin thigh due for thorough therapeutic surgery

Both things
Both earthly things amount to nothing
Both earthly things thoughtfully amount to nothing
The participants were given in all three hundred (300) words containing the target sounds.
We adopted Received Pronunciation (RP)as the chosen pronunciation model for analysis becauseit is the accent
on which phonetic transcriptions in dictionaries are based and the model used for teaching English as a foreign language.
Following Hewings (2004, p. 11), there are as many ways of pronouncing English as there are English speakers.
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Chidi-Onwuta, Gift & Oluikpe, Benson

The data generatedwere transcribed and mapped onto correct forms to identify deviant formscaused bypronunciationof the
target sounds //,// and//. The English vowel and consonant phonemescup // and thought // are crucial
articulation problems for Igbo teachers and learners.They articulate // as / or :/. The English labio-dental fricative // is
articulated as /t/. These kind of articulation problems do not only harm communication competence of Igbo-English
bilinguals, teachers, and teacher trainees but can lead to misinterpretation of information or interaction problems
especially when it involves speakers of other languages or cultures. The data available in this study will enable us to test
whether fossilization is independent of native language influence or whether fossilization depends or is influenced by
native language.

FINDINGS
The statistical table below reveals correlation between fossilized error and correct pronunciation of //
Table 1
Participants
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Correct
(x)
12
11
10
27
21
15
14
13
9
10

Error
(y)
88
89
90
73
79
85
86
87
91
90

Rx

Ry

di =(Rx Ry)

di2

5
4
2.5
10
9
8
7
6
1
2.5

6
7
8.5
1
2
3
4
5
10
8.5

-1
-3
-6
9
7
5
3
1
-9
-6
Total

1
9
36
81
49
25
9
1
81
36
328

Rx = ranking of correct pronunciation


Ry = ranking of fossilized errors in pronunciation
Using spearmans rank correlation coefficient, the rule is that the value of correlation coefficient ranges from -1 to
1. If the value is -1, it implies that there is a negative relationship, that is, as error is going up, the correct pronunciation is
coming down. If the value is +1, there is a positive relationship, meaning that both fossilized error and correct
pronunciation will be going up together. If the value, on the other hand is 0, there is no relationship between error and
correct pronunciation.
r = 1 - 6di
n (n2 -1)
= 1 - 6x328

= 1 - 328

10(102 1)
= 1 -6 x 328
10 x 99

10( 100 - 1)

= 1 - 328 x 6
990

1 1.9879 = - 0. 987

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Analysis of Fossilized Errors in Speech Production of Adult IGBO-English Bilinguals

-1

Statistical table showing correlation between fossilized error and correct pronunciation of //
Table 2
Participants
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Correct
(x)
48
41
35
38
29
11
15
12
27
36

Error
(y)
52
59
65
68
71
89
85
88
83
64

Rx

Ry

10
9
6
8
5
1
3
2
4
7

1
2
4
5
6
10
8
9
7
3

d =(Rx
Ry)
9
7
2
3
-1
-9
-5
-7
-3
4
Total

di2
81
49
4
9
1
81
25
49
9
16
324

r = 1 - 6di2
n (n2-1)
= 1- 6 x 324
10 (102 -1)
=1 1944
990
= 1 1.9636
= -0. 964
r = -1
Statistical table showing correlation between fossilized error and correct pronunciation of //
Table 3
Participants
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

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Correct
(x)
98
100
95
97
99
98
97
100
99
98

Error
(y)
2
0
5
3
1
2
3
0
1
2

Rx

Ry

di=(Rx Ry)

di2

5
9.5
1
2.5
7.5
5
2.5
9.5
7.5
5

6
1.5
10
8.5
3.5
6
8.5
1.5
3.5
6

-1
8
-9
-6
4
-1
-6
8
4
-1
Total

1
64
81
36
16
1
36
64
16
1
316

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R = 1 - 6di2
n (n2-1)
= 1 -6x 316
10(102-1)
= 1 6 x 316
10 x 99
= 1 - 1896
990
= 1 1.9152 = - 0. 9152
=-1
Following from Tables 1 -3 above, the value of Spearmans rank correlation coefficient is -1 in all of them,
implying that there is negative relationship between amount of fossilization and native language influence. Tables 1 and 2
recorded high errors than the correct forms while Table 3 recorded high correct forms than errors.
The statistical table below reveals the mean value of correct and fossilized errors
Table 4
Form
Ave. Correct value (ACV)
Ave. Error value (AEV)
Total Value (TV)

//
12.40
87.60
100

//
27.32
72.68
100

//
98.56
1.44
100

Total
138.28
161.72
300

According to table 4 above, fossilized error of //has the highest mean valuewith 87. 60, and the mean value of
the correct pronunciation is 12.40. The following typical errors of // sound manifest in the data:
Table 5
Base

Corpus

Come
Up
Cup
Huddle
Hunter
Uncle
Reduction
Rubbish

/k:m/
/:p/
/k:p/
/hdl/
/hnt/
/kl/
/rid:kn/
/r:bi/

Correct
Form
/km/
/p/
/kp/
/hdl/
/hnt/
/kl/
ridkn
/rbi/

Fossilized
Sound
//
//
//
//
//
//
//
//

Table 5 shows that the participants wrongly pronounced the sound // as /:/ or //.
// is an open mid-back unrounded vowel phoneme and one of the core sounds in English that constitute prime
fossilized continuum for Igbo bilinguals. Table 5 further shows that // is a fossilized mistake causer for the participants
(Igbo bilinguals) who wrongly pronounce it as // necessitated by its absence in Igbo phonemic entry.

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The mean value of error of pronunciation of // ranks 72.68 following Table 4, with the mean value of the correct
pronunciation ranking 27. 32.
The table below shows typical examples of the pronunciation of // by the participants.
Table 6
Faith
Thanks
Both
Earthly
Nothing
Through
Thursday
Thick
Thieves

/feit/
Tks/
/bt/
/etli/
/nti/
/tru:/
/tzdei/
/tik/
/ti:vz/

/fei/
/ks
/b/
/:li/
/ni/
/ru:/
/:zdi/
/ik/
i:vz/

//
//
//
//
//
//
//
//
//

Table 6 above shows that the participants wrongly pronounced the interdental fricative// as /t/ (voiceless
alveolar sound).
Table 4 further shows that fossilized error of // has a mean value of 1.44 with the correct pronunciation of it
ranking 98. 56. The results evidenced that the participants were more successful in pronouncing // than // and //. Error
of pronunciation of // has a mean value of as little as 1.44 because Igbo phonemic entry has such input. // is not a
mistake causer to Igbo participants, consequently any appeal to prior linguistic knowledge in the use of this sound will be
facilitative and not inhibitive. Typical examples of manifestation of // in the data include:
Table 7
Base

Corpus

Fan
Language
Palate
Consonants

fn
lguedz
pleit
knsunnts

Correct
Form
Fn
Languedz
Pleit
knsunnts

Fossilized
Sound
-

DISCUSSIONS
Following from Table 1, the results revealed that fossilization of the target sounds is high when the participants
NL phonemic entry has no such input. The mean value of the errors of pronunciation of // and // recorded the highest
value ( 87. 60 and 72.68) and were replaced by other sounds found in the participants phonemic inventory, that is, / or
:/ and /t/ respectively, evidenced that these sounds have been fossilized. It must be remarked that the participants have
reached plateau in the development of L2 learners phonological competence, that is, they have all graduated from their
courses of study and are all workers. Following Nozadze (2012), repeated phonological errors are often demonstrations of
phonological competence fossilization. Mapped onto Prators (1967) hierarchy of difficulty, this fossilized error belong to
Level 4 (over differentiation) of the hierarchy of difficulty, a case where linguistic items found in the target language are
not present in the native language of the learners. Such items, according to Demizerem (2007) constitute fossilized mistake
causer for target language learners.
This finding is supported by Demizerems(2007) and Kahramans (2012) studies on fossilized pronunciation of
Turkish teacher trainees and EFL teachers respectively. Their findings revealed that //vowel phoneme is a fossilized

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10

Chidi-Onwuta, Gift & Oluikpe, Benson

mistake causer and constitutes articulation problems for Turkish teachers and learners who learn the target language
(English) after critical age period either because of its absence in the learners native language phonemic inventory.
It is also observed that the participants were very successful in pronouncing // than the other target sounds,
recording a mean value of correct pronunciation of 98.56, with fossilized pronunciation error of mean value of 1.44. This is
because the participants native language has // vowel phoneme in its phonemic inventory. Mapped onto Prators (1969)
hierarchy of difficulty, this item belong to 0 level

(transfer) of hierarchy of difficulty, the participants positively

transferred the sound // found in their NL to the target language, hence leaving little or no fossilization. Such item is not a
mistake causer to Igbo English bilinguals.
Tables 1-4 further show that there is a correlation between amount of fossilization and native language influence,
in that case, fossilization is not independent of native language influence.
Cui-lian (2003) offered practical measures we can adopt to fight fossilized errors in an effective way, which
include, discovering and classifying why and how errors occur.To Igbo bilinguals for instance, identifying that the
language lacks // and //, and focusing on those error causers, using more drills to form correct and strong skills before
the learners attain plateau in IL will, in no little measure prevent fossilization.Error of pronunciation of // and // has
remained persistent over time in the IL of these Igbo Englishbilinguals and became fossilized in spite of pedagogic
intervention.
The result appear to establish that fossilization is not independent of native language influence, that is, the distinct
the target language items are to the learners native language, the higher the amount of fossilization. This finding is
supported by Hans (1998) study of fossilization among advanced L2 learners. His findings affirmed that the learners
ability to get rid of transfer decides the amount of fossilization the learners IL will show.

CONCLUSIONS
We conclude, in this study, that linguistic items present in the target language but absent in the learners native
language are probable mistake causers which, if not got rid of, with positive input, before the learners attain their plateaus
in IL, would possibly become fossilized items, given the data in this study. This study further appear to establish a negative
correlation between amount of fossilization and learners NL. Consequently, since IL plateaus are far from the TL norms
(Gass&Selinker, 2001), permanent defossilization appear not to be possible after critical period.

IMPLICATION OF THE STUDY


The above conclusion implies that if needs analysis of the learners are not established, strategies and approaches
adopted to facilitate learning in order to develop language competence strategies among learners without stopping,
fossilization can be induced by crosslinguistic influence.
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Analysis of Fossilized Errors in Speech Production of Adult IGBO-English Bilinguals


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